lered in making these balls stay down on the powder charge. The "Brown Bess" was the standard arm of the British forces during the American Revolution, and each British soldier was issued an iron mallet which was used to hammer the end of the ramrod and upset the ball enough to keep it in place. This upsetting, or flattening of the ball, may have reduced its tendency to roll, but it made it scale instead. Fifty yards was about the greatest distance at which a mark the size of a man could be hit with any
136 certainty with these smooth bore muskets. This led to the adoption of a range finding system in batde that consisted of holding the fire until the whites of the enemy's eyes could be seen. For average eyes this distance is just about fifty yards.
The idea of using spiral grooves, or rifling, in a barrel to impart rotation to a bullet and keep it stable in flight, is lost in antiquity. The difficulty in doing this was that the bullet had to be small enough to be pushed down the bore and still be large enough to fill the grooves after it got there. This difliculty was overcome by some unsung colonial gunsmith or rifleman by using a ball smaller than the bore, covered with a patch of sufficient thickness to fill the grooves, the soft patch being compressed into the grooves as the ball was forced down the bore. When the arm was fired, the patch followed the rifling, imparting rotation to the ball but left the bail on passing out of the muzzle. The ball, undeformed, continued to rotate as it sped on its way. This condition could be duplicated with each shot and the improvement in accuracy over the old smooth bores was remarkable. Some of these old muzzle loading rifles could, and still can, show a degree of accuracy, within the limits of their effective range, that can be exceeded only by the very best of our modern rifles. The popular belief that all of the old muzzle loading rifles were extremely accurate is fallacious. Much depended upon the rifle and much more upon the shooter. There were undoubtably "gun bugs" in the days of the muzzle loaders' just as there are today, and it is but natural that those who studied their arms and the loading of them, and sought the products of the best gunsmiths, should get the best results.
Buckskin and linen were the two materials used for patches, because they were the only suitable materials available at the time, but today a variety of cotton fabrics can be used with excellent results.
When' breech loaders came into use, the need for a patched bullet or ball was no longer necessary, as it was
137 then possible to use a bullet large enough to fill the grooves of the rifling, inasmuch as the bullet was seated behind the rifling, instead of being forced down the bore from the muzzle. As a naked and unlubricatcd lead bullet will quickly lead a barrel and render it inaccurate, bullets were provided with grooves, or cannelures, which were filled with lubricant. But the use of patchej did not disappear for a long time, although their form changed from those used in the old Kentucky rifles, nor did muzzle loading cease to be practiced.
Paper patched bullets were in quite common use when the writer began his shooting career and could be purchased from any of the ammunition companies for reload-
ing purposes. These bullets were either loaded into the preventing the possibility of the ends lapping over. When cases and used just as our present day ammunition is used, the patch is found to be correct, a piece of sheet metal can or they were seated into the harre] the proper distance with be filed up to the shape and size, to be used as a template a bullet seater, after which the case, charged with powder, or pattern to cut others.
was put into the chamber behind them. Many records were Before putting the patches on, it will be well to dampen made with arms loaded in this way and today many of the them between two wet cloths, so as to take the crisp out old Schützen rifles are being resurrected, with surprising results to some of the boys to whom the smell of black powder is a novelty.
Because of this resurrection and the difficulty of finding information on methods 06 patching bullets, a description of the procedure is given here. Be it understood that the writer never put a paper patch on a bullet in his life and that the following comments are taken from the experience of honorable and straight shooting gendemen who did do it and knew how.
Paper-patching Bullets. "Bullets to be patched with paper are smooth, without grooves. They are from three to six thousandths of an inch smaller than the standard size. The diameter is increased to the size desired by having a thin paper patch rolled around them, covering about two thirds of the bullet from the bise up. The paper should be of fine, strong texture, similar to bank note paper. (Note: When paper patchcd bullets were popular, a special grade 138
of paper was made for patching them and came in four of the paper. This will also cause it to lay snugly to the thicknesses; extra thin, thin, medium, and thick. The extra hall and help in the matter of closing the paper over the thin was about .0015 thick and there was an increase of base, which when pcrfecdy dried will have shrunk firmly about a half thousandth of an inch m each succeeding size.) to the bullet. Do not make patches too wet, or use mucilage
Shooters wishing to increase or decrease the diameter of or any sticky substance, for patches must leave the bullet their bullets can do so by using the proper thickness of clean at departure from the rifle.
paper. There is a diJiercnce of opinion relative to the ad- How to Roll Patch. Lay the patch on a smooth vantage or superiority of patched builets over grooved, yet board or table with the point of one of the angles toward for hunting or military purposes the grooved ball is generally you and to your right; let the whole of the angle project preferred, as such ammunition can be carricd and exposed over the edge of the board or table (this will leave the to wet weather without injury; while a part of the patch point of the patch free, not stuck down to the tabic); then being exposed is liable to get wet and injured so as to P^ce the bullet squarely on the patch (base to the left), impair its accuracy. Still, for fine target-shooting, the letting as much of the paper project beyond the base as patchcd bullet properly handled is, without doubt, prefer- 140 you desire. When the bullet is in position, turn the pro-
able. jeering point of the patch up over the bullet and, with a
The ordinary factory patched bullets have two laps of forward push, roll the bullet up on the patch. If the patch paper around them. The patch is cut in length so that the is not rolling on straight, roll the bullet back, readjust it, ends do not lap over but almost butt up to each other. The and try again. With a litde practice this can be done regular patch is cut on an angle of about 35 or 40 degrees, accurately every time.
as shown in the cut. This angle is so that the joining of Paper patched factory bullets used to be made with a the laps will not be parallel with the rifling or the axis of hollow in the bases. With such bullets, the patch should the bullet, thus holding the patch over both points of the project beyond the base of the bullet about two thirds of lap. the bullet diameter. This projecting paper is twisted up
How to Fit Patch. First cut a strip of paper the and pressed into the base cavity, width desired; have it long enough to lap three times; roll With flat base bullets, allow the patch to project only firmly about the body of the bullet; have edge of paper onc third of the diameter of the bullet, tum the paper in even with base of bullet; when so rolled, hold point of over base of the bullet and press the base of the bullet bullet from you and with the point of a sharp knife cut on table. This will leave the center of the base of the through all the thicknesses of paper except about a six- bullet bare.
teenth of an inch at the base; commence cutting from the The Chase Patch. This is a square end patch, point toward the base, scribing the angle desired around wrapped only once around the bullet with the ends just but-
the circumference of the bullet. When unrolled the two ting together. The patch is wrapped around the bullet with inner full-sized pieces that are held together by the uncut to just flush with the base of the bullet, the patch part will represent, when put together, the shape and length lapping only once around the bullet. The patch is inserted of patch desired, except the cutting off of about one sixty- in the Schützen bullet seater, it should project beyond the fourth of an inch in length, preserving the same angle, thus mouth of the case that forms part of the bullet seater. It may
Method of RoUJn* Patch.
be squared up by pressing gendy against the plunger of the bullet seatcr so as to form a cylindrical tube. Insert the bullet inside of the patch so that both the rear of the patch and the base of the bullet are against the plunger; patch and bullet are seated in the barrel ahead of the case to the desired depth. This method of patching is impractical except for fine target shooting but it has made some of the best records ever obtained. Dry, crisp paper is used for making the Chase Patch.
In seating regular patched bullets in the shell (in the ordinary manner) some shooters used to use a thin wad over the powder, then a disc of lubricant on top of the wad with the bullet on top. Others seated the bullet on top of the powder without wad or lubricant, wiping the bore out after each shot. Experience must decide these points 141 for each shooter." (The body of the foregoing, if not the breeches, has with some modifications, been taken from an old Ideal Hand Book.)
For the benefit of the younger generation, a Schutzen bullet seater is a device for seating bullets in the barrels of rifles, independendy of the cartridge case. It takes the form of a cartridge case of the same caliber as the rifle, with a sliding plunger inside actuated by an extended handle, usually off-set for convenience. The travel of the plunger may be definitely fixed or may be adjustable to provide seating the bullets in the barrel to any desired depth. The bullet is inserted in the mouth of the case, the case inserted in the chamber, and the plunger forced forward to the limit of its stop. The case, charged with powder, was inserted after the bullet was seated. This is essentially the same method that is employed in loading large caliber cannon today, as is described elsewhere in this book.
There are two methods of making lead or lead alloy bullets; one is to cast them in moulds and the other is to swage them to shape. The latter method is used in making factory bullets, it makes a bullet of more uniform shape and density than can be made by casting. A slug is first cast in a mould or is cut from lead wire ot a suitable size. These slugs arc rammed into a die having the profile of the bullet, but without grooves, under heavy pressure. The slugs are of a greater volume than the die into which they are forced and the excess metal is squeezed out through a small hole in the side of the die, in the form of a fine wire known as "weep". This insures full and uniform bullets. The slugs or cores of jacketed and soft point ballets are made in the same way. After the bullets come from the die they are rumbled to remove the oil, as well as any burrs from them, after which the grooves arc rolled into them and they are sized to the correct diameter.
The method of casting bullets has been described elsewhere but as this type of bullet is the one that the reloader 142 depends on for economical shooting and is used extensively, some space will be devoted here to a few side lights on it. Cast bullets are of three general types; fiat base, hollow base, and gas-check base.
Flat Base Bullets. The flat base bullet, as its name implies, has a fiat base that is the full diameter of the bullet. Moulds for this type of bullet are made so that the cut-off is at the base of the bullet and it is necessary that the cut-off screw be tight and that the cut-off fits fiat on the cop surface of the mould to cast these bullets cor-recdy. When black powder was the only powder available, bullets were often made smaller than the groove diameters of the barrels they were used in and the expansion of the base under the sudden thrust of the powder gasses was depended upon to fill the rifling. Many of the old black powder arms had rifling grooves much deeper than arc found in modern arms and some would not accommodate cartridges loaded with bullets that were the full groove diameter. This condition is seldom found in present day arms, the noteworthy exceptions being the -256 Newton, 6.5 Mauser and Mannlicher and some 8 m/m Mausers.
Some plain base bullets were also made with a bevel on the edge of the base. In the deep rifling of the older arms, fins were pushed back over the edge of the bullet base as it was impressed into the rifling and these fins were detrimental to the best of accuracy. The bevel on the base of the bullet prevented this occurence but unless the bevel was perfect, no advantage was gained by it. As most modern rifles are made for jacketed bullets, the grooves are relatively shallow. Such slight fins as may be formed on bullets with square, sharp bases are probably blown off by the muzzle blast. At least, this factor is no longer considered of consequence. If a fiat base bullet is very much larger than the groove diameter of the barrel it is fired in, metal must be pushed back all around the entire base of the bullet and this doesn't help the accuracy any.
'43 Hollow Base Bullets. Moulds for hollow base bullets are made to cast the bullets with the points, or rather the noses toward the cut-off and for this reason must have Hat noses. It is impossible to make a mould to cast a pointed bullet with a hollow base. Hollow base bullets arc only used in revolvers and, except for deep seating bullets, there is neither excuse nor reason for such bullets in modern revolvers. Early revolver cartridges used bullets that were the same diameter as the cartridge case, having heels on the rear ends that fitted tighdy inside of the cases. They were crimped by a rolling operation, which can not be duplicated in a handloading tool. These bullets were lubricated on the outside by dipping the bullets into melted lubricant after the cartridges were loaded. Most rim-fire cartridges are still made in this way. The outside lubrication was messy and picked up dirt and grit, furthermore, the heels on the bullet bases did not expand or upset uniformly and the accuracy that could be obtained from outside lubricated cartridges was, at best, limited; the tales in dime novels notwithstanding. To overcome the objections of the outside lubricated bullet, grooves were made in the body of the bullet and the bullet was made small enough to fit inside of the case to a depth that would permit the lubrication grooves to be completely covered. This meant an increase in the length of the cartridge case and a very considerable reduction in the bullet diameter; a reduction so great that inside lubricated bullets will drop right through the barrels of revolvers made to shoot the outside lubricated bullet. Something had to be done to make the smaller bullets take the rifling, so deep concavities were put in the bullet bases to facilitate their expansion.
About the only revolvers in common use today that were made for outside lubricated bullets, arc the old Colt and Smith fit Wesson Model 1901 army revolvers that were sold by the Director of Civilian Marksmanship a few years ago for $5.50 each. Thousands of these guns are in the hands of shooters. They were made to use the old .38 Long, outside lubricated cartridge and the chambers are practically 144 straight reamed holes. Cartridge cases are no longer obtainable and those for the .38 Long IL. cartridge will not take the old heel bullets. They will take them, but will not hold them. The barrels are entirely too large for plain base, inside lubricated bullets. Hollow base conical bullets arc no good in them with smokeless powder and not much good with black powder. I have fooled around with these old clucks off and on for a good many years but, until quite recently, 1 never did get one to shoot well enough to bother loading the ammunition for it. One. day about a year ago, I received a letter from some fellow who had a model 1901 revolver. It was the only gun he had and I judged from his letter that there wasn't much chance of his getting another, so I didn't have the heart to advise him to hang it up over the mande as a relic. He wanted a wad-cutter load for it which gave me an idea so i cast up some of Ed. McGivern's bullet (Ideal No. 358395) of a soft alloy and loaded them pretty well out of the cases with all the FFg black powder I could get behind them. The combination of the long, cylindrical bullet with the easily expanded hollow base did the trick and the load shot very well; far better than any other load I have ever used in this gun.
Hollow base bullets should not be used in revolvers with heavy loads. If fired from a revolver with the barrel removed, the hollow base will be literally turned inside out if the bullet is soft, and if it is hard, the base portion will be blown off entirely. Incidentally, the threaded part of the frame, where the barrel is screwed in, will be so nicely leaded that, in the absence of a thread chaser to clean the lead out of the threads, the gun will probably have to go back to the factory before the barrel can be replaced.
Fired in a normal gun, the hollow base will expand between the barrel and cylinder and in the beveled rear portion of the barrel. This results in a check in its free forward movement, similar to encountering an obstruction, and causes the pressure to rise excessively. With normal loads, this rise in pressure is not enough to cause any harm 145 but with heavy loads, such as arc sometimes mentioned in magazine articles (but arc never recommended by the companies that make the powders) a hollow base bullet may well cause pressures to rise to a point that will strain or burst the gun. In speaking of hollow base bullets I refer to these gosh-awful monstrosities with a hollow that one can hide in. If the concavity is merely a shallow depression of but a few hundredths of an inch deep, such as are found in some factory bullets, they will do no particular harm.
Gas-Check Bullets. These bullets have a heel on their bases over which shallow gilding metal cups or gas checks fit. They may be fired with heavier charges of powder than plain base bullets, the gas checks acting as a protection against the extra heat and pressure of such loads. Gas check bullets can also be used with some powders that arc not suited to plain base bullets of the same caliber. This permits them to be fired at higher velocities than plain base bullets.
The question is often brought up as to how fast a gas check bullet may be driven with good accuracy and without fusing. (Stripping or fusion of the bullet does not occur until the bullet fuses or melts on the outside, from the heat of the gasses forcing past it.) The Ideal Hand Book has long published the figure of 1800 f.s. as the maximum velocity for gas check bullets but this, while a fair average for all such bullets and a velocity at which good accuracy can be obtained almost with certainty, is conservative in many instances. Good accuracy has been obtained with some bullets of this type at as high as 2400 fs., without leading the barrel but others will cause difficulties at much lower velocities. There just is no fixed rule and the rcloadcr who wishes to get the highest velocity possible with a gas check bullet will have to do some experimenting. One shot will not tell anything and to find such a load with a minimum of shooting, the rifle should first be fired sufficicndy
146 to foul the barrel and clean out all traccs of oil. Next load and fire three cartridges, using a load that is fairly conservative to begin with and shoot for accuracy on a target. If the three shots group wel'. the chargc in the next three cartridges can be increased. After each series of shots examine the barrel carefully for signs of leading, particularly near the muzzle. This may be seen as lumpy patches or streaks in the early stages, but with excessively heavy loads, the lead may cover the entire bore evenly and not be seen at all, except by the practiced eye. In this case there will be a splash of lead all around the muzzle. When the load is worked up to a point where leading occurs, the accuracy will probably go to the devil and an enlargement of the groups will usually occur before this point is reached. Keep a memorandum of the loads tried and when it appears that the accuracy is decreasing, stop.
The work thus far has been a crudc approximation and before going further it will be necessary to clean the gun. If there arc no visible signs of leading, scrubbing the bore out with a brass brush and nitro solvent will be sufficient. If leading is present, scrub the bore with a dry brass brush. If the brush has previously had oil or nitro solvent on it, wash it in gasoline or carbon tetrachloride before using it. Then plug the chamber with a tight fitting cork or wooden plug, fill die bore with metallic mercury and let it stand for a couple of hours; pour the mercury out and wipe the bore clean with a dry patch and examine it for signs of lead. If the lead is not all out, repeat the process. The word "dry" is emphasized because even a slight trace of oil on the leaded surface will prevent the mercury from picking the lead up. I know of nothing besides metallic mercury that will thoroughly remove a good dose of lead from a barrel and if the lead is not all removed, it will quickly pick up more lead when the gun is fired again. Also be sure that the cork is driven into the chamber tighdy, for mercury is heavy and when poured down a barrel it lands on the cork with a severe jolt. If the cork comes out, you will have a mes3 on your hands. Mercury can be obtained 147 from any wholesale drug or dental supply house in small, one pound jugs and it is handy stuff to have around if one uses lead bullets. It will also take out the fouling of metal jacketed bullets and can be saved and used over and over again.
When the barrel is clean, select the heaviest load that gave good apparent accuracy with three shots and load up twenty cartridges, firing them for accuracy. If the accuracy holds up for twenty shots and does not show more than slight traces of leading, you probably have the heaviest load that can be fired satisfactorily in your rifle. It does not necessarily hold that the same load will be good in another rifle of the same caliber. The alloy used, the individual mould, the bullet size, die lubricant used, the bore and groove dimensions of the barrel and the throating all enter into this as well as the kind of powder, which makes it impossible to lay down any fixed limit of velocity for any bullet and arm. Sure, it's a lot of work, but the fellow who wants the last fraction of an inch of muzzle velocity with a cast bullet can't expect to get it by sitting in a rocking chair and reading a book.
A question that is often asked about gas check bullets is: Can they be used without the gas checks and with good accuracy? The answer to this, like the answer to most questions regarding the loading or reloading of ammunition, is yes and no. A gas check bullet has a heel on the base to which the gas check is fitted and this heel is considerably smaller than the bearing surface of the bullet. Used without the gas checks, the true or effective base of the bullet becomes the exposed surface of the first band and the heel becomes a nuisance, for if the heel upsets irregularly, the muzzle blast, impinging on it after the bullet has left the muzzle of the barrel, will cause some dcflection. The difference between the diameter of the heel and that of the bearing surface of the bullet is too great to expect the heel to expand to the groove diameter of the barrel with any charge of powder that can properly be used with a plain 148 base bullet. The heel is stubby and the gasses act around the outside of it as well as against the rear and while no definite rule can be given, it is best to use a fairly hard alloy for casting the bullets, then they will usually give excellent results with powder charges suitable for plain base bullets when fired without their gas check cups.
The .22 Long Rifle and other rim fire cartridges have rather long heels that fit the inside of the cartridge case and one of the problems in loading this type of cartridge is to cause this heel to expand uniformly to the full groove diameter of the barrel. This necessitates using a bullet >lloy soft enough to expand with the particular powder and charge with which the ammunition is loaded. As the heels of rim fire bullets are relatively longer and larger than those of gas check bullets, the problems of loading the two types are entirelv different.
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